Tuesday nights at South Park Plaza is the place to be. Cultivate South Park—a coalition of South Park residents dedicated to building community through food and public spaces—hosts El Mercadito, the newest famers market in Seattle.
Prior to the onset of the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture identified the census track that includes South Park as having a substantial share of residents that are low-income, more than a half mile from the nearest supermarket, and without a personal vehicle. El Mercadito was started last year as a community response to the food insecurity exacerbated by the pandemic. When many workers were laid off or had their hours reduced and could not afford food, community members stepped in to ensure that families had access to fresh, healthy food. El Mercadito was a market-style food bank led by Urban Fresh Food Collective Director and Cultivate South Park member Monica Perez who served free produce to South Park residents – no questions asked – behind Resistencia Coffee.
“Our Mercadito community is made of hard working joyful humans, many of which are being displaced because of gentrification. Having a community space where we can all gather and access food is an act of justice. This Mercadito Farmers Market is organized by Cultivate South Park and Urban Fresh Food Collective and was born from a diverse group of community members’ dedication to mutual aid during COVID. Unlike most farmer’s markets in King County, the Mercadito has a resource and mutual aid space open during each market day.”Monica Perez, Director of the Urban Fresh Food Collective and Cultivate South Park member
In June, Cultivate South Park received a $153,307 grant from Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) to support food banks who serve r low-income individuals and families in the Delridge, Georgetown, and South Park neighborhoods. A few months afterwards, organizers reached out to the Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED) for permitting support in creating a new farmers market. OED staff from across the department provided technical assistance to Cultivate South Park and worked closely with Seattle Parks to coordinate and align a smooth process for permitting and vendor compliance.
El Mercadito expanded and launched as an official City of Seattle Farmer’s Market on August 24 and is a new space for local artists, artisans, and small farmers, and continues to offer free produce to community members. Conformed by almost 20 vendors who sell culturally relevant food and good such as pastries, pasta, medicinal plants, art, jewelry, and more. Since it’s opening, OED staff have staffed tables at the market to provide technical assistance to business owners and connected community members to other programs OED offers such as the Digital Sales Access Program and the Youth Web Design Program.
In the next five year Perez hopes that El Mercadito will “keep growing spaces in communities where we all thrive and care for each other and where minority businesses prosper economically. South Park people deserve it.”
El Mercadito is open every Tuesday from 3 – 7 p.m. at South Park Plaza, 8456 Dallas Ave S. Know a food business or creative who is interested in vending at El Mercadito? Sign up to become a vendor at El Mercadito. And be sure to follow El Mercadito on Instagram (@elmercaditosouthpark) or on their website.